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Za'atar Caesar

Za'atar Caesar with Charred Hearts of Romaine and Crispy Croutons

O. M. G. There are no words for how incredibly fantastic this salad is. Just make it and say I didn't tell you so. You have been warned. Feel free to add your favorite grilled protein to the salad. David had it first with grilled chicken, sprinkled with a little za'atar, of course. And we also made it with za'atar dusted grilled shrimp, but it's equally good without any protein. 

Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword Caesar, entree, salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 as entrees and 4 as salads
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet in Santa Fe adapted this recipe from Elf Cafe which was featured in The L.A. Cookbook


For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley minced
  • 1 1/2 lemons juiced, plus more if the dressing still needs a bit more thinning
  • 1 tablespoon za'atar plus 1 more teaspoon, if needed, and more to dust when plating

For the croutons:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter of your choice divided
  • 2-3 cloves garlic sliced or chopped
  • 6 pieces gluten-free white bread we use the small loaf in the blue package from Trader Joe's
  • 1 teaspoon za'atar divided
  • kosher or sea salt to season the croutons
  • freshly ground black pepper to season the croutons

For the Romaine hearts

  • 2-4 hearts Romaine if smaller, use four, but if larger use 2-3
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt


To make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice and za'atar. Every lemon has different amounts of juice, so if the dressing is still a little thick, feel free to add a bit more lemon juice so it thins out. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the croutons:

  1. In a skillet over medium-heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter and let melt. When it's hot, toss in the garlic and half the croutons and let them get golden delicious. Stir frequently and turn the garlic and croutons as needed. When ready, place the crispy garlic and croutons in a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon za'atar and a dash of salt and pepper. Place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and butter in the skillet and, once it's hot, add the remaining croutons and cook until golden brown on both sides. When ready, add these croutons to the bowl and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon za'atar and another dash of salt and pepper.

    Za'atar Caesar croutons

To grill the lettuce:

  1. Remove the outer leaves of the lettuce if they are not pristine. Drizzle a little olive oil and rub all over the Romaine hearts. Sprinkle a little salt all over the hearts and set aside.

  2. For a gas grill, use low heat to grill the Romaine hearts.

    For charcoal or wood burning grills, build a low heat fire with glowing coals and no flame. You should not get flare ups because there is a no fat. Place the Romaine hearts on the grill and turn frequently so they don't burn, but char nicely all over. 

    Grilled lettuce
  3. When the outer leaves are wilted and there is a nice char on them, remove from the grill. This should take 5-6 minutes.

    Grilled romaine lettuce

To build the salad:

  1. Place charred Romaine hearts on a cutting board and slice in half lengthwise. Place cut side up on plates, spoon dressing liberally over the leaves, add crispy garlic and croutons and any protein, if using. Garnish with more Parm, a dusting of za'atar and more freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

    Za'atar Caesar

Recipe Notes

If you want to make your own mayonnaise, use this recipe from the blog.